V. S. Naipul

There are parallels and symbiosis of paradoxes and synergies that inhabit and inform the British Colonial experience that are inexplicable and inevitable. Such as the last sentence I just wrote, for example. Who writes such elaborate overly aliterated and over-educated sentences anymore?

We do.

We, who grew up in the British Colonial diaspora. We Indians who grew up in Trinidad, like Naipaul, or we Indians who grew up in Kenya, like me. We learn to navigate pathways between our ancient Indian cultures, and our aspirations to ascend up the ranks of British education, as we devour the English vocabulary, sit for the London based exams, the ones dispatched and monitored for us in remote colonial and post-colonial outposts such as Chaguanas, in Trinidad, or Eldoret, in Kenya.

My late father loved Naipaul, because he could relate to Naipaul’s insightful writings, because he and Naipaul were about the same age, and had both grown up in colonial outposts in the Caribbean and in Africa. Both men aspired, as did so many of my father’s generation, to emigrate to the ultimate destination for men from the British colonies – London. London was where – as it always was assumed – it all was happening. London – as was certainly true – is where it all began for all of us colonials. British Colonialism was incubated in London within the discrete corridors of power, the pomp of palaces, the grand country houses, and the hushed gentlemen’s clubs of Saint James’.

Naipaul moved to London, England in 1954, after graduating from Oxford University. My own father moved to London, England in 1958. However, it was not until 1961 that my father first discovered Naipaul, for that was the year that Naipaul’s book, ‘A House for Mr. Bishwas’, was published. It is the book that has the simple sweetness and the profound perspectives of the vanishing colonial era, and is thus a brave step forward into a post-colonial era. Post-colonialism for Indians of Naipaul and my father’s generation, commenced when their countries became independent of British Colonialism.

Naipaul’s Trinidadian homeland became independent in 1962, and my father’s Kenyan homeland became independent in 1963. The brilliance of Naipaul’s prolific writing, was in his boldly stepping into the post-colonial era, and elucidating the cultural landscape of the Indian diaspora, in a manner so authentic and unapologetic that my own father would continually read and quote the books of V.S. Naipaul to anyone who listened. Naipaul knew his audience and he understood his subject.

— Karim